Understanding numbers is fundamental and
the basis for all of Mathematics.
2. Every student
at every level of education must have a firm
systems of writing numbers can be and should be addressed
at later stages of the student's development, but these
systems are best understood once the base 10 system is firmly
Why base 10?
well, we have 10 fingers; fundamentally, counting is done with
our fingers at the earliest level. So, it is normal to
count using our fingers using one after the other like this:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Now, we've run out of
fingers, I suppose we could then use our toes, but then at 20
we'd run out both fingers and toes... time to bring your
friends into the picture! No, it's probably best to
group by tens and write down a mark for each '10' we
pass by; then when we're done counting the number of 10s we
have is the number of marks we wrote down and the excess would
be the number of fingers we used past the last 10.
Now using both we'd have the number of objects we were
(Zero, '0', is
problematic; without resorting to algebra theory, explaining zero can be a challenge;
If you start with 5 pencils in a pencil box then you
could count them one at a time and finally say there
are '5' pencils in the box. This will make
sense. Then after giving all 5 pencils away,
the box will become empty. At this point there
are no pencils in the box and we assign the number
zero to represent the absence of pencils.
In actuality zero is a placeholder in the decimal
numbering system and it is this direction that
should be taken with the concept of the number
quantity; approach numbers this way at first.
Cardinality refers to quantity, we are therefore talking about
cardinal numbers (ordinal numbers will have to wait!)
then, "how many." And this is the
approach to take no matter the student's grade level and
ability. Use a hands on approach counting similar
objects, always count similar objects (doing so reinforces
later algebra concepts.) Count books, count
pencils, count pens, count marbles, count dolls, count
pennies, count quarters, count dollars, count whatever, but do
not count "things." Again, this is to
reinforce algebra skills later on.
objects from a larger pile to smaller piles in groups of ten,
starting with one when counting. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10...
one group, then start on the next group
11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20 ... group 2, etc. Making
smaller groups has the added benefit of not losing track of
where you were counting if you get interrupted, i.e., count
the groups 10, 20, 30, etc, then move into the partial,
remaining group and continue 61, 62, 63, 64 , for
example. After counting becomes
routine, interrupt the counting at various times to
reinforce the benefit of making groups while